Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Rural estate plans power plant fuelled by dairy herd

A HUGE manure-fuelled power plant could appear in Mapledurham.

A HUGE manure-fuelled power plant could appear in Mapledurham.

MS Power Projects wants to build the 320,000 sq ft anaerobic digester off Pond Lane, about half a mile east of the village, near Park Wood, by the autumn.

It is working with the Mapledurham Estate, whose 500-strong dairy herd would provide the slurry.

But the plans have been criticised by the chairman of Mapledurham Parish Council.

The company unveiled its scheme at a consultation meeting held at Caversham Heath Golf Club on Thursday last week attended by 20 people including villagers, parish councillors and South Oxfordshire District Council planning officers.

Visitors were able to ask questions and give comments which MS Power says it will consider before submitting a planning application to the district council by the end of this month.

The plant, with two digesters, would extract methane from manure by mixing it with maize and letting it rot.

The gas would be used to power a generator on the site, creating about 15 million kilowatts-hours or units per day, enough to power about 3,200 houses. This would be sold to the National Grid.

The company would pay the building and maintenance costs and the estate would provide the maize. The processed slurry, known as digestate, would be stored in a 25 million litre lagoon and spread on the estate’s fields.

The generator would be kept in a soundproof building and the plant would be screened by hedges. The plant would be automated, so would need only one member of staff to supervise it.

The Mapledurham Estate says it needs the digester to help offset its rising running costs. Its dairy herd, which supplies milk to Marks & Spencer, will take on about 200 more cows over the next two or three years but the estate needs a way to dispose of the extra manure and pay the higher power bills. Steven Edwards, of MS Power, said processed digestate smelt “at least 80 per cent” less than raw manure, which the estate currently uses.

He said it also contained fewer nitrates, which can leach through soil and pollute underground water.

Mr Edwards refused to say how much the plant would cost but that it would be a “substantial long-term investment”. He said: “The process eliminates traffic and noise problems because everything we need comes from within the estate.

“It will smell far less than it does at the moment — if it did smell, it would mean the plant was not working properly. We want to trap and use the methane gas, which is what produces the smell, rather than releasing it.

“We’ll be spending a lot of money on some state-of-the-art machinery, so it’s in our interest to make sure it works.” Mapledurham Parish Council chairman Tim Whitaker said he was concerned about traffic chaos resulting from expanding the diary herd.

Cllr Whitaker, who has lived in the village for 40 years, said the larger milk collection lorries could block the narrow roads, many of which are single lane, and create tailbacks.

He said: “These trucks take up entire roads when there are other people who need to use them. The bridleway around that area is already breaking up and needs serious action. We’re supposed to be an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty but from previous experience of torn-up verges I think it’s going to be an eyesore.”

Estate manager Robert Whitchard said there would be less disruption because only one large milk tanker would visit the dairy off Jacksons Lane instead of the two tankers that come now.

He said he had been considering building a digester for several years.

Mr Whitchard said: “The primary benefit is that we’re making use of the excess energy from the cows. About 30 per cent of the energy in their feed is just wasted as manure, so it’s all about turning that into something we can use.

“Our electricity bill for the dairy is about £48,000 per year and that’s only going to keep going up. This will give us a chance to carry on farming. This will also reduce our carbon footprint as the gases will be captured instead of being allowed to go up into the atmosphere.”

The estate has to pay for the upkeep of the 16th-century, Grade I listed Mapledurham House. A recent refurbishment of the Elizabethan stately home’s chimneys cost £146,000. It is also responsible for 39 listed buildings in and around the village.

Mr Whitchard said: “The farming operation can wash its face but farming alone will never keep the entire Mapledurham Estate going. It is vital that we increase our revenue. We aren’t interested in capital — we don’t want to sell land off for building houses or another Tesco. We just want a reliable stream of income so that the estate stays sustainable.”

Visitors were able to ask questions and give comments which MS Power says it will consider before submitting a planning application to the district council by the end of this month.

The plant, with two digesters, would extract methane from manure by mixing it with maize and letting it rot.

The gas would be used to power a generator on the site, creating about 15 million kilowatts-hours or units per day, enough to power about 3,200 houses. This would be sold to the National Grid.

The company would pay the building and maintenance costs and the estate would provide the maize. The processed slurry, known as digestate, would be stored in a 25 million litre lagoon and spread on the estate’s fields.

The generator would be kept in a soundproof building and the plant would be screened by hedges. The plant would be automated, so would need only one member of staff to supervise it.

The Mapledurham Estate says it needs the digester to help offset its rising running costs. Its dairy herd, which supplies milk to Marks & Spencer, will take on about 200 more cows over the next two or three years but the estate needs a way to dispose of the extra manure and pay the higher power bills. Steven Edwards, of MS Power, said processed digestate smelt “at least 80 per cent” less than raw manure, which the estate currently uses.

He said it also contained fewer nitrates, which can leach through soil and pollute underground water.

Mr Edwards refused to say how much the plant would cost but that it would be a “substantial long-term investment”. He said: “The process eliminates traffic and noise problems because everything we need comes from within the estate.

“It will smell far less than it does at the moment — if it did smell, it would mean the plant was not working properly. We want to trap and use the methane gas, which is what produces the smell, rather than releasing it.

“We’ll be spending a lot of money on some state-of-the-art machinery, so it’s in our interest to make sure it works.” Mapledurham Parish Council chairman Tim Whitaker said he was concerned about traffic chaos resulting from expanding the diary herd.

Cllr Whitaker, who has lived in the village for 40 years, said the larger milk collection lorries could block the narrow roads, many of which are single lane, and create tailbacks.

He said: “These trucks take up entire roads when there are other people who need to use them. The bridleway around that area is already breaking up and needs serious action. We’re supposed to be an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty but from previous experience of torn-up verges I think it’s going to be an eyesore.”

Estate manager Robert Whitchard said there would be less disruption because only one large milk tanker would visit the dairy off Jacksons Lane instead of the two tankers that come now.

He said he had been considering building a digester for several years.

Mr Whitchard said: “The primary benefit is that we’re making use of the excess energy from the cows. About 30 per cent of the energy in their feed is just wasted as manure, so it’s all about turning that into something we can use.

“Our electricity bill for the dairy is about £48,000 per year and that’s only going to keep going up. This will give us a chance to carry on farming. This will also reduce our carbon footprint as the gases will be captured instead of being allowed to go up into the atmosphere.”

The estate has to pay for the upkeep of the 16th-century, Grade I listed Mapledurham House. A recent refurbishment of the Elizabethan stately home’s chimneys cost £146,000. It is also responsible for 39 listed buildings in and around the village.

Mr Whitchard said: “The farming operation can wash its face but farming alone will never keep the entire Mapledurham Estate going. It is vital that we increase our revenue. We aren’t interested in capital — we don’t want to sell land off for building houses or another Tesco. We just want a reliable stream of income so that the estate stays sustainable.”

More News:

Latest video from

VIDEO: Jess Glynne opens Henley Festival in style
 

POLL: Have your say